Documentary Review - Stallone: Frank, That Is

                      FRANK, THAT IS

Behind every success, there’s a story. In the case of Sylvester Stallone there happens to be two. However, the second story isn’t his. For the first time seemingly ever, the spotlight isn’t on Sly. Instead, it’s on his brother.


Directed by Derek Wayne Johnson, Stallone: Frank That Is tells the little known story about the man behind Sylvester Stallone, or rather the man who has spent his entire career trying to get out from behind him.


Like his brother, Frank Stallone too is an artist, and he actually knew what he wanted to do long before Sly did. While Sly wouldn’t get into acting until he got older, Frank knew from a young age that he wanted to make music. Johnson’s film does an incredible job taking us on Frank’s journey and genuine growth into an artist. Through archived photos and videos, as well as candid interviews with some of his best friends and former bandmates, we get a good sense of who he is and how hard he’s worked to set his name apart from his brother’s.


The most tragic part of his story though is that even though both brothers were bound to make it big, Sly did it first. Now, there was never a competition to see who could make it first, and the documentary punctuates that by showing just how much Sly took care of his brother while making Rocky. One of the best things this film does is capture the unbreakable brotherly bond that the two have always had. More than anything, it also provides insight as to how much Frank has always been there for his brother. While most would call him a shadow, he’s actually been more of a support system.


Not only did he appear in the first few Rocky’s in varying capacities (ranging the singer that Balboa classically and comically calls a “bum” in the original to a body double in Part 3), but he and his band also provided some music to the films. Even though it may have seemed like Sly was helping his brother by bringing him into showbiz on the surface - and he was - the truth was that more often than not Frank was really stepping in to help him.


The documentary reveals that Frank did most of the music for Staying Alive, the sequel to the hit Saturday Night Fever - which Sly directed - because The Bee Gees walked off.


If there’s one thing anyone should take away from this film, it’s the fact that Frank was thankless. As much as he did to help his brother, or to expand his career, he never got as far as he wanted to go because a lot of his life seemed to be defined by bad timing.


In the film, Frank recounts how close he would get to success, both in his band and as a solo artist, before things would consistently fall apart. He also talks about how he shared venues with artists like Springsteen and Bon Jovi’s Richie Zambora before they hit it big. At times it feels like Frank is Llewyn Davis, the artist that could’ve been, but in reality he’s become the best artist that he can be by forging his own path free from definition and judgment.


Stallone is an ode to an underappreciated artist that, despite life having different plans for him, shows immense gratitude for the journey. He’s the person who’s not sad the ride is almost over, but happy that it happened. The film is proof that just because he didn’t succeed the way he wanted to doesn’t mean he’s a failure. He has, after all, given the world a brand new reason to remember his family’s name.


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